Mumonkan Case 35: Seijõ's Soul is Separated
'During the T'ang dynasty, there lived a girl named named Seijo. Seijo
was enamored by a boy named Ochu who lived in her town. The people of
her village used to call them the "old couple" for everywhere that
Seijo and Ochu went, they held hands and were inseparable. As Seijo
grew up her father turned his attention to the question of a suitable
husband for her and eventually selected a good and strong young man.
But Seijo had no interest in him. She and Ochu had already promised
their selves to each other.
The wedding went on as her father had planned and Ochu, unable to bear
the prospect of witnessing the loss of his beloved, left the village
without saying farewell. He took his boat and rowed into the night. As
he rowed he noticed the outline of a figure running along the bank. He
put into the shore to see who it was; and there was Seijo, tear
stained and adamant. Together they traveled to a distant land where
they lived as man and wife. Five years went by. Seijo gave birth to
two girls. But though she loved Ochu and the children, she was weighed
down by the dishonor she'd done to her father. All this she told to
Ochu. And he admitted that he too longed for his homeland.
"Let us go back and beg forgiveness," he said.
And so they returned. At the port, Ochu left Seijo and the girls while
he walked to the village. He went directly to Chokan's house,
confessed the whole story, and bowed his head at their ungrateful
behaviour. Chokan received him kindly.
"Which girl do you mean?" he asked. "Your daughter Seijo," Ochu
replied. "That is not possible," Chokan said. "Seijo is here in the
house with me. Since you left the village without bidding her farewell
she has lain here; she lies here now."
Chokan took the mystified Ochu into the house. "She has not spoken
since you left," he said. "It is as if she has been absent in mind, or
drugged. Now I see that her soul left to follow you." So saying, he
showed Ochu into Seijo's room. Hearing the story, Seijo rose from her
bed, still without speaking, and walked out into the village just as
Seijo and her children stepped from the cart that had brought them
from the port. The silent Seijo moved forward to greet her, and as she
did, the two Seijos were united.'
Goso then said to his monks, "Seijõ's soul is separated from her being. Which was the
When you realize what the real is, you will see that we pass from one
husk to another like travelers stopping for a night's lodging. But if
you do not realize it yet, I earnestly advise you not to rush about
wildly. When earth, water, fire, and air suddenly separate, you will
be like a crab struggling in boiling water with its seven or eight
arms and legs. When that happens, don't say I didn't warn you!
The moon above the clouds is ever the same;
Valleys and mountains are separate from each other.
All are blessed, all are blessed;
Are they one or are they two?
So this is the koan that ends marriages, gets people to quit their jobs, and even results in others giving up their practice entirely. Luckily, in your case, you probably haven't yet made a decision that'd force you into a similar situation. Hooray! :-D
A lot of people are drawn to Buddhism because they value a life of calm and peace. I can't say I blame them. Who wants to go around getting beat up in samsara with all of it's ups, downs, disappointments, and intense passions when an alternative is available! But this is kind of a lie, isn't it? Buddhism really doesn't work that way. The real purpose of sitting isn't to find calm, but rather to open ourselves to our Buddha nature. Sometimes that will result in peaceful states of mind, but more often than not, the more we open ourselves up, the more intimate we become with our own internal obstacles. Instead of calm, we find turmoil. Instead of peace, a storm rages within. This can be a little disheartening at first. When the peace dries up and we are left on the cushion, steeped in sweat and facing down all our internal bullshit, there is always a feeling that we must be doing something wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The question I'd ask of you is which of your two choices really rips open your heart and puts you in touch with your Buddha nature? Is it the path of following your passion, of facing the headwinds of samsara straight on both on the cushion and in your day to day life, or does your Buddha nature lie waiting at the end of the path of peace and calm? Down which road can you hear the singing of your heart?
Which Seijo will you be? If the path you take is the one that opens you up to your Buddha nature, you have the opportunity never to be separated.